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February 4th, 2016

Penguin DT's GOTYs 2015

What am I doing right now?

Pre-production has begun on a brand new level! As usual, this involves creating the custom assets used within the map before the actual production can begin. These assets include special textures, background objects, effect generators and even some new enemy variants. For this level this workload is about the average for TAGAP 3 – it needs more work than some of the levels, but it's far from the most time-consuming to pre-produce.

This level is to be placed in about the midway point of the game and features the very first player-driven vehicle I created for TAGAP 3 a couple of months ago. It just has taken a long time to prepare the level design, as it's quite complex.

See, where majority of TAGAP games have been inspired by DOOM, Quake and Duke Nukem 3D, this new level is my way of paying homage to Descent. While the level is visually very different from those brilliant Parallax Software classics, in design it does share elements.

Only time and you TAGAP fans can tell if the level is a proper tribute to Descent or not ☺

Penguin DT's GOTYs 2015

Time for yet another round of Game of the Year awards, Penguin DT style! While we usually cover 'the best games released during last year', in 2015 we did it differently, exploring only the backlog titles. Well, now that I've moved to 'next gen' with PS4, I can finally start talking about new releases too! Still, I focused most of the year old past-gen titles, so there will be plenty of older gems on display this year, too.
 

Best positive surprise:

Driver: San Francisco

(runner ups: El Shaddai, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Mars: War Logs)

Now that I've reached the back of my backlog – the games that were left lingering the longest – it was obvious I'd experience more out-of-left-field surprise gems than before. But none of them surprised me more than Driver: San Francisco.

If you're a regular reader of our backlog adventures, you likely guessed this was coming. To preface this; I'm not a car-game guy. I do drive in GTAs as means of transport and I do enjoy some crazy Carmageddon from time to time, but that's it. That in mind, it takes a very special sort of driving-only kind of game to capture my attention and even more to capture my love. Driver: San Francisco fits the bill.

I think I summed it up pretty well in my past blog, so I'll repeat myself a bit; It's Life on Mars / Ashes to Ashes + Matrix + Quantum Leap, all in packed within the original 70s Gone in Sixty Seconds. It has a really great story, brilliant writing, creative-as-heck scenarios, fun chases, scrapyards worth of wrecked metal and hours of awesome funk to do chases by.

Best soundtrack:

Satellite Reign

(runner ups: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Republique, Wolfenstein: The New Order)

In case you were unaware of it, Satellite Reign is a brilliant little tactical cyber-punk action game in the vein of classic Syndicate and especially Syndicate Wars – from the original designers of those games. The soundtrack of the game, too, comes from the same source as that of Syndicate; Composer Russel Shaw.

The score brilliantly embodies cyberpunk, with cold ambiences and rhythmic, pulsating synths painting a colourful-yet-dystopian future. I wouldn't go as far as to call it completely retro-futuristic, but it does have enough of those elements to give it that flavour. What results is one darn cool soundtrack that has become one of my fave things to code by!

Best of Backlog:

Wolfenstein: The New Order

(runner ups: Dishonored, The Lego Movie: The Videogame)

This new Wolfenstein has been called many things, including a stealth-action game and a retro shooter. None of these are accurate – and all of them are. See, it's an epic first person shooter that can be played any way you want. Prefer sneaking? Then do! Enjoy epic shoot-em-up sequences? Grab two assault rifles, start strafing and shoot everything that moves! Only thing that doesn't really work is hunkering behind cover since your health is only semi-regenerating and lasers cut cover like butter.

And in between shootouts the game turns into a first-person point-and-click, forwarding a story that is so darn good and thought-provoking that you really have to scratch your head and remind yourself that you are actually playing a first person shooter with nazi robots. Then you remember that the developer Machine Games is basically the same core group behind the legendary The Chronicles of Riddick and suddenly everything makes sense.

Seriously, Wolfenstein: The New Order is one of the best games I have EVER played. Period. And the prequel, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, is purely brilliant as well; I just didn't play it until January 2016, so I can't nominate it here. Still, I wouldn't be too surprised if it pops on this list next year!

Timo's GOTY 2015:

The Witcher III: Wind Hunt

My expectations for Witcher III were high but the game lived up to the expectations and more. The choices you make affect the world. The open world is large and beautiful and there is lots to do, but the optional content doesn't get overwhelming. Most side quests are built to tell a story of its own and to give deeper understanding of the world and its inhabitants. Witcher III is one of the best games, if not THE best, that I've ever played.

– Timo

Heini's GOTY 2015:

The Witcher III: Wind Hunt

Engrossing story and the genuinely interesting side-quests with real plots are something that have been missing from computer RPGs for ages. The game is also deliciously pretty, sounds good and Gerald as a character is pure brilliance – What's there not to love? ☺

– Heini

Petja's GOTY 2015:

Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain

An open world game that offers true freedom in the way you approach missions, combined with meaningful side activities, wealth of content, all in a technically impressive package. A package so good you might just forget some of the stuff Konami was up to last year.

– Petja

Jouni's GOTY 2015:

Lego Dimensions

Seriously, look at it;

Enough said.

I can't really put into words how delightful an experience Dimensions is. It constantly keeps things moving, promoting creative ways to shuffle your character roster and thus creating even more epic mash-up teams. Instead like the super-restrictive Disney Infinity, Lego Dimensions let's you play as ANY of your characters in ANY of the worlds you have unlocked. Combine that with some real Lego-building with all the vehicles and the evolving Dimensions Portal, you have yourself one truly inspiring package.

The only thing I can see someone taking as a negative about Dimensions is the price tag. I'm not going to lie, it isn't cheap. However, considering the amount of awesome you get for that money, it's a true bargain. Even with just the main game, you'll have a ton of game to explore and geek-franchises to visit!

Here's to hoping Lego Dimensions just keeps expanding – I can't wait to see what worlds the we get to visit next!

Honorable mentions

So many games and so few prizes to give away; Each of these games is as worthy a visit as any of those mentioned above;

  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (Namco Bandai)
    A great positive backlog surprise that can only be described as an adrenaline shot straight to the vein. It's intense, loud and visceral, with added bonus of being delivered at high altitudes, going at Mach-speeds.

  • Satellite Reign (5 Lives Studios)
    A word 'spiritual successor' gets thrown around a lot, but Satellite Reign truly is the spiritual successor to Syndicate. Though I loved the Starbreeze's take on the franchise, I have to admit the tactical warfare between cybernetic corporate agents is always good fun.

  • El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (Ignition Tokyo)
    An action epic based on Apocrypha, in the genre of DmC, stunningly designed and thought-provokingly written. The word 'surreal' was invented for experiences like this.

  • Fallout 4 (Bethesda)
    Everyone around me seems to be playing it and enjoying it, despite some weird design choices. For various reasons – most obviously because of the strain Lego Dimensions put on my wallet – I didn't get to it just yet, but I've played all the Fallouts so far and don't intend to miss this outing, either.

Most anticipated games of 2016

  • DOOM (id Software / Bethesda)
    Like, obviously. I already have a counter app ticking down to the realase date on every single device I own.

  • Strafe (Pixel Titans)
    It speaks in volumes that one of the games I've enjoyed the most past year was in fact a work-in-progress speedrun demo of this game. That limited one-level snippet is so great I've played it through dozens of times – and I'm not even a speed-runner myself! 1996 can't arrive soon enough!

  • Hellblade (Ninja Theory)
    From the creators of DmC (GOTY superstar of 2013) and stunning Enslaved, Ninja Theory's next game is a seemingly brutal action game that goes out of its way to root for its lead heroine – even though she is delusional and hearing voices. Everything I've seen and heard from the game makes it look like true winner.

  • Kojima announcements
    Now that Hideo Kojima is free from Konami and working on something Sony exclusive, I'm already rubbing my hands together in excitement! Even though his next title is way off, obviously, a mere announcement would make me keel over from joy.

Phew, that was a hefty update!

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin